J. Crew’s Latest Collaboration is Actually Marvelous

Blouse: Juan Carlos Obando for J. Crew | Pants: Jessica Simpson (Lord & Taylor) | Belt: BCBG (Lord & Taylor) | Shoes: Manolo Blahnik (Barneys) | Bracelets: Lulu Frost and Vintage Cuff
Blouse: Juan Carlos Obando for J. Crew | Pants: Jessica Simpson (Lord & Taylor) | Belt: BCBG (Lord & Taylor) | Shoes: Manolo Blahnik (Barneys) | Bracelets: Lulu Frost and Vintage Cuff
Blouse: Juan Carlos Obando for J. Crew | Pants: Jessica Simpson (Lord & Taylor) | Belt: BCBG (Lord & Taylor) | Shoes: Manolo Blahnik (Barneys) | Bracelets: Lulu Frost and Vintage Cuff

I have spent plenty of time hating on J. Crew’s army of mall-shopping mutants and their ubiquitous uniform of “formal” sweats, leather baseball caps and slip-on shower shoes. But sometimes, J. Crew has gems amongst the half-tucked horrors — usually in their capsule collections with other designers.

This cobalt shirt is part of a collaboration between J. Crew and Juan Carlos Obando, a runner-up in the prestigious CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund competition. When I spotted the shirt online, I was struck by its drama: the bold color, the enormous flounced sleeves and removable necktie. (Of course, J. Crew did the blouse a huge disservice by hanging it on a wan waif who looks like she narrowly escaped drowning in a kiddie pool.)

E-shopping wouldn’t cut it: I’d have to try it on in person.

Not many J. Crew locations stock the capsule collections (I tried two midtown locations, and neither had the blouse), so I trekked to the 66th & Madison Ave. outpost. Most Manhattan J. Crew stores are behemoths catering to hoards of tourists, but this UES location feels like a high-end boutique. (When your store is across the street from Oscar de la Renta, you have to look the part.)

But back to the blouse: When I slipped it on, I was smitten — and immediately reminded of an iconic image of Princess Diana:

Left: Princess Diana, back when she was still Lady Diana Spencer.  Right: Princess Diana's blush-colored blouse, designed by David & Elizabeth Emanuel.
Left: Princess Diana, back when she was still Lady Diana Spencer. Right: Princess Diana’s blush-colored blouse, designed by David & Elizabeth Emanuel.

The portrait was snapped by Lord Snowdon for Vogue back in 1981. And 34 years later, it looks just as chic and romantic as it did when it appeared on newsstands. I carefully consider closet longevity before big purchases, but this screamed ROI.

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Blouse: Juan Carlos Obando for J. Crew

I typically turn a very cynical eye toward Jenna Lyons & Co.’s design philosophy of slogan sweatshirts for fashion lemmings. But J. Crew pleasantly surprised me with this collaboration — and my co-workers were equally flabbergasted when I told them where I had made the purchase. (I was also delighted with this capsule collection from Demylee, an indie knitwear designer, which includes a very chic cashmere polo that’s proven difficult to track down in stores.)

But for now, my interest in J. Crew’s relevance has been piqued — and I’m curious to see what future collaborations lie ahead.